Looking to own one less car? Dealing with parking issues at your business or organization? Wondering how to get started (or get your employees started) walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit? Have questions about how to save money driving and maintaining your vehicle(s)?
Owned and operated by Sarah Cushman – a transportation planner, educator, consultant and former ASE Master-Certified auto technician – Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC serves as a source of solid information and help with making transportation choices and changes.
- Exploration of individual and organizational transportation needs and financial impacts
- Training and consultations for using – and planning for and encouraging the use of – alternate transportation (biking, carpooling, taking public transit, walking, telecommuting, etc.)
- Environmentally-responsible and financially savvy car maintenance and driver education
The bad news we all know: fuel costs are rising, an average of 19% of individual income goes to own just one vehicle, heavy financial burdens are being put on businesses and tax-payers for roads and parking, obesity rates are soaring, and 40% of local air pollution and climate-changing carbon emissions comes from transportation sources.
But the good news is that organizations and individuals have practical transportation alternatives – that save money and improve public and environmental health.
Cycling Savvy courses offered in Maine for riders of all abilities are NOT to be missed! Here’s more on offerings this summer from the fabulous John Brooking, lead organizer of the Portland Bike Commuting Meetup:
“One of the biggest challenges we always come back to as commuters is the dreaded riding around cars. I started commuting by bike with a vague sense that I was supposed to pretty much obey the same rules as car drivers, but with zero knowledge of how that actually played out on a bike. As I’ve learned how to co-exist with cars over the years, through a combination of experience, informal education in Internet and personal discussions, and finally in actual bicycling classes, I’ve come to regard cyclist education as one of the most important means of empowerment for a commuting cyclist. There will always be jerks on the road, and there will never be bicycle-specific infrastructure that goes to every single destination, but with just a little education, a cyclist can truly be empowered to go anywhere, even with the jerks and without the infrastructure.
That’s why my mission over the last few years has increasingly been focused on cyclist education. For the third year, I am again offering sessions of the CyclingSavvy curriculum in the Portland area. This curriculum was created in Orlando, Florida, in 2009, and now has certified instructors in 11 states including Maine.
If you need to get more comfortable with your bike, the “Train Your Bike” skills sessions will help you do that. The full package adds a classroom session to give you knowledge of the laws, crash causes and avoidance, and techniques for sharing the road respectfully but safely, followed by a leisurely-paced on-road Tour of Portland where we put all the knowledge and the skills together in the real world.
Even if you have been riding around town for some time, you will still learn something from this class. I know I did. [Editor's Note: me, too!] Experienced and beginning riders alike testify to how CyclingSavvy has helped them. A graduate of a 2011 Portland class and Meetup member Michie O’Day writes “I took the Cycling Savvy course when I first resumed cycling after a 30-year hiatus. The most important thing I gained from it is perspective. I now realize that I’m part of the traffic moving on the road. I practice the strategies I learned in class every time I ride.”
The CyclingSavvy tag line is “Empowerment for Unlimited Travel”, and I believe that’s true. As a transportational cyclist, this course will give you the tools to get anywhere you need to go by bike, safely and confidently. If you ride around town every day, or would like to, taking this course is one of the most important steps you can take to make your bicycle travel a better experience.”
The next course will be held June 21-22 in Portland. See here for details, registration, and evolving course offereings through the summer months.
There are so many answers to the question, “Why do you ride a bike?” I’m just back from a ride across town to do some outreach for the Portland Walking School Bus Program and saw the video below for National Bike Month/Bike to Work Day from the (San Francisco) Bay Area Bicycle Coalition. It makes me happy. As a year-round bike commuter I want to say every month is a great one to ride a bike, but May is definitely special, as the seasonal riders take to the streets and bikers are just everywhere, and of all stripes.
Three People, Five Wheels, One Blankie: Family Bicycle Journey through Maine, Atlantic Canada & Quebec – May through August 2012
Our family bicycle trip was profiled in this little article for the Fall 2012 issue of Maine Cyclist, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s news magazine.
Sarah Cushman, our contracted Southern Maine Planner for the Maine Safe Routes to School Program, and her husband, Rob Levin, and 5 year-old daughter, Cedar, made a much-anticipated bicycle journey this year. Leaving their home in Portland on a cold and wet May 1, the family pedaled their way for 3 ½ months and 2001 miles on a grand loop through Midcoast & Downeast Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland – returning via Quebec and Western/Central Maine in late August. (After the first 5 weeks the weather turned marvelous.)
While their intent was mainly to slow down, spend more time as a family, and experience the adventure of a long human-powered journey, they also got to study first-hand other communities’ bike-ped infrastructure (and lack thereof) and to connect with great local bicycling advocates and educators along the way. Sarah even got to talk shop for a couple days with a fellow School Travel Planner in Nova Scotia!
“Pace was everything,” Sarah says. “From the beginning we planned to only bike 25 miles a day, 5 days a week. Which meant we could mostly avoid rainy days and, in general, enjoy a leisurely ride with stops to enjoy anything that caught our fancy along the way – playgrounds, dairy bars, a beach, a conversation with someone local, a long picnic lunch followed by a nap in the shade, anything.” See the route, photos, and read more about their experiences here.
Ah, the frustration of almost getting run down by someone who’s texting while walking or biking… sounds silly but it’s true. A young Mainer working in New York City acted in and helped produce this fun and creative short video on the hazards of texting while walking. Check it out and also view it as encouragement for similar initiatives here in Maine!
Firing Your Car Up for Spring: keep your carpool happy (and reliable) with these smart car care tips
Guest article for Go Maine Nation e-Newsletter
It’s spring – an important time to do some every-six-months checks and maintenance on your car or truck. Who wants to put more cash into their vehicle? You do. Painful though it may seem to consider, a little money spent now to keep your vehicle properly maintained will save you spending a lot more on unforeseen and calamitous repairs, quite literally, down the road.
What should you take care of? Vehicle checks that will keep you from preventable breakdowns – and services that will extend the life of your car or truck. To demystify what’s best for your vehicle – use this cheat-sheet maintenance table to work from. Compare it with what you know has been done recently for your car, and go from there. For example, make sure to check your tire pressures, get an oil change if it’s been more than 3 months, do all the checks listed in the Spring column, and then also get your cooling system flushed if it’s been over two years since it was last done and your system uses regular (green) coolant.
And remember, don’t groan when repair needs are discovered. Instead, thank your service technician for finding them during the convenient hours and location of having your car or truck already in his or her service bay (versus at night on the side of the highway, for example). Stay on top of these simple checks and services and you’ll feel all that much better as you and your carpool roll down the windows and enjoy those warm spring rides.
I just got my Maine State Inspection done – a great vehicle check-over value for the cost ($12.50-$18.50 depending on your vehicle year and what county you reside in). It’s a little weird to be a licensed state inspector but not tied to an inspection station – so someone else gets to do it.
But that’s okay – I take it to a shop that gives it a full, legal state inspection review. If they get it in and up on a lift and spend at least a half hour on it, then you’re probably with the right folks. (I’m not sure how techs sleep at night who just give a walk by and slap a sticker on – not only are they breaking the law but they’re putting car owners at terrible risk.) While every one of us has whined at some point about having to get it done – I know from experience that having the car checked over once a year is critical to catching safety concerns.
The Maine State Inspection manual has 30 pages of checks for passenger cars and trucks – and all those checks would normally cost significantly more that the state inspection fee. It includes inspection of and standards for brakes, body components, fuel tanks & lines, seatbelts and airbags, battery hold-downs, the exhaust system, license plates, vehicle glass, wipers, rear view mirrors, driver’s side sun visor, the horn, lights (including headlight aiming – a crucial thing actually), the speedometer, steering and suspension, vehicle height, and tires and wheels. One of the only things I think is missing is to check the power steering belt for wear – a major safety concern if it breaks while you’re headed down the road.
And if your shop finds something? Then great – and thank the technician. Seriously. Better s/he finds it while the car is in the shop, versus you breaking down on some Sunday night driving on the highway.
A little note on timing. As you know, your Maine State inspection sticker tells you what month your valid inspection expires (it’s the number that’s cut out of the border of your sticker – in my case the 6 is missing, indicating the month of June). A lot of folks think there’s a 30 day grace period – starting at the end of that month. This makes your local law enforcement chuckle.
If there’s a 30 day grace period, it starts at the beginning of the month that your inspection expires. So that I don’t forget, I’ve put it on my Outlook calendar to pop up as reminder on the first Monday of June each year. It feels a little geeky, but when it gets me to call and schedule my appointment I realize it saves me every time.
With a slow leak in my right front tire, I thought I’d share a bit about tire repair (most of you probably know all this but just in case). And by a leak, I mean this is more than a few PSI lost between my monthly tire pressure checks (more about this important general maintenance in another post). So noticeable in fact that I could see my tire was low with the naked eye. And FYI eyes can fool you – nothing is better than checking with a tire pressure gauge – so after checking, sure enough, almost down to 15 PSI. Yikes!
So first – when does a tire have to be replaced – instead of repaired? If you’ve got a hole in the sidewall (side of the tire) then it can’t be repaired – and will lose air plenty fast. Or if the tire has been worn against the rim (read on below). It also can’t be repaired if there is a puncture in the tire tread that’s over an 1/8″ – 1/4″.
But luckily most nails and screws and common damaging debris fit within that size parameter. And sometimes a leak can be caused by accumulated rust (on steel rims) or corrosion (on aluminum rims) that breaks the good seal of the tire against the rim – this material can be manually ground down and treated. Other leak sources are a leaking valve stem or the Schrader valve itself (where you put the air in, like on your bike tire) – and these are simple to replace, too.
So I’ll just bring it to my local Century Tire or another shop for repair – I might bring my bike and get a few errands done while the car is there – or at the bigger tire shops you can usually wait if you want. It’ll cost maybe $20-$30 – well less than the cost of replacement: $100+ on average for a new tire mounted & balanced.
By law, in Maine, a repair means the tire is removed from the rim, inspected (for inside damage), and plugged & patched. The plug ensures the hole is filled all the way through to keep water from entering the hole and rusting the steel belts within the tire. The patch seals the inner liner. Tire work is brutal – it’s dirty and breaks your back lifting heavy tires on rims all day. But it can also be satisfying to bring a tire back to life.
One last bit – how I get my tire to the shop is critical and could mean the life or death of the tire. And per above – cost me a lot more. Because if it’s super low on air, I’ll be driving on the rim, which will cut up the inside of the tire – and FAST – and send a perfectly repairable tire to the scrap heap. So even if there’s a gas station with an air pump just a few blocks away, DON’T drive the car there unless there’s maybe close to 15 PSI in the tire.
If it’s less, and you’re lucky enough to have an air compressor on site, then use that to fill your tire before you go anywhere. But most of us don’t have access to a compressor – so then get yourself a can of Fix-a-Flat. You can find it at gas stations, your local drugstore even – or Shaw’s. And I recommend buying two – one to use now and one to keep in your trunk.
It DOES NOT, by the way, fix a flat tire. But it’s easy to use (read the directions on the can) and should get the tire off the rim – unless the seal has completely broken. And while it will still be somewhat flat, as you run the car down the road the agitation of the foam will bring the tire pressure up a bit more. Just be sure to let the shop know you added it – because they’ll have to be careful as they remove the rim (and it will be messy).
And if the tire won’t come up off the rim at all (i.e., the seal between the tire and rim is broken), then jack the car up and remove the tire if you can and bring it in that way – or get the car towed. Even if you don’t have roadside assistance, a tow should still cost way less than an average tire & rim purchase – you’ll damage the rim, too, most likely – (about $200).
Enough for today – thanks for reading! And now off to get my tire tended to…